For The Voices We Can No Longer Hear

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I’ve never really used the word “evil”. I don’t like it. Pronouncing it turns my mouth in the wrong direction and my face into an ugly sneer. The word is as powerful as the actions it’s meant to describe, and it makes me feel uncomfortable. Even the juxtaposition of consonants and vowels is wrong, like it was supposed to be entirely different but somehow came to being in a damaged state. A mutant aberration of the English language that was never meant to exist. A freak of nature. A reject. A heinous mistake.

But as I sit this morning, scrolling through twenty-six names, twenty-six beautiful, innocent faces, and twenty-six life stories that are far too short, it’s the only word that comes to mind. I have the luxury of reflection; the ability to peek at bit pieces and highlights of lives I was never supposed to know. You do too, because we’re not dead. Not today, at least, and not at the hand of something that can’t be imagined without the use of that one terrible word.

When you’re given two or three paragraphs to memorialize the life of your child, where do you begin and how can you stomach that there is now, too early and completely unimagined, an end? Do you mention that she’ll be buried with her favorite stuffed animal, Bluie, because, at the age of six, they were best friends? Do you tell the world about your super-secret code, how you’d squeeze your son’s hand three times to say “I love you” and that his four squeezes back meant “I love you too”? Do you share how much you’ll miss sneaking into her room at night while she’s fast asleep, simply to trace the delicate features of her timeless face and wrap your arms around her warm, tiny body? Do you tell millions of strangers what was on his Christmas list, how he felt sure he’d been a good boy this year and that Santa was on his way? How do you explain, in one hundred words or less, that her life was bookended by an infinite reservoir of your love, and that without her, you’re not even sure what that word means anymore?

I’ve struggled over the past two days to find some kind of meaning in this madness, a tender take-away that will somehow still my mind, break the string of awful images bombarding my brain, and commemorate those lives the world has lost.

But I can’t. The crime is too big, the scope too powerful, the pain too deep, and I am too small.

The only way I can think to honor the innocent women and children the world has lost is to fully embrace what I consider to be opposite of evil. Hope. If evil is a one-word definition of the things most wrong with our world, hope is its antidote. It’s a rare flower that, under pressing odds, fights through the squalor of life and grows. It’s a pervasive, persistent feeling in your heart that somehow overcomes the bile in your gut. It’s the power of love taking its rightful place over the power of hate.

I hope medical technology will soon advance to such a degree that minds gone off the deep end can someday be identified, and if not cured, curbed to the point of stability. I hope that this, and the many other recent horrific incidents involving guns, will give serious pause to the politicians who govern them, and everyone who sells them. I hope that families and friends, but especially the parents of these innocent victims, find the slightest amount of solace in the inescapable ache that has wrapped our national conscience in a dull, gray cloak, and that they can somehow feel the only thing we have to give. Our tears.

No one should have to go through the pain of burying a child. Regardless of age, it’s not a natural state of affairs and, under any circumstances, it isn’t right. But this? This is evil.

“Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict ‘It is evil.’” Ayn Rand

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Madeleine Hsu, 6

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison Wyatt, 6

75 responses »

  1. This is too painful but you have helped us acknowledge these little children and their teacher and bear the sorrow. May the event teach us something more than guilt and hate. The World was supposed to be a safe place for innocent children.

    We know what we should do. Let’s get rid of hate and selfish pride; and care enough for each other to be a human barrier in front of the innocents. Caring for children is everyone’s job; the first lesson we all should have learned when we were young.

    Nothing will make this evil act less than it is. The sacrifice of children is abhorrent and unworthy of any God or person. Let’s be better people; less complicent by not permitting crazy people the materials or opportunity to do this again.

    Our country is a greedy selfish place dangerous for the weak and helpless; cold and unfeeling; unsafe for children. It’s obvious the people in power don’t have the right priorities. They don’t hold the public safety as their number one priority. The real national debt is to those who educate us and keep us safe; let’s help them.

    Thank you Stacie. Your words were what I needed. I had almost given up hope.

    Steve

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Moving post Stacie. My heart aches for the families. We don’t know the full story of the shooter at this point but its probably fair to say that cutting funding to treatment services for mental health issues has a profound negative effect on us all.

    • We probably won’t ever know the full story, and that’s one of the many difficult things about this horrible event. When we were as young as the children who were killed and asked “why?” we were often given reasonable answers, so as adults, when we ask the same questions, we expect someone rational, intelligent, and trustworthy to respond. Mental health has to play a huge role in this tragedy, and yet, there’s no rational, intelligent, and trustworthy answer to the millions of questions swirling around our collective brains.

  3. Thank you Stacie — I’m glad you mentioned hope. I believe in it. Side by side with evil, hope is still there but it’s stronger than evil, and can serve to revitalize the human spirit.

  4. You have expressed beautifully what we are all feeling. As a family who has been touched by evil we know that after the tears you have to have hope and love to move forward. We must live a life that honors the loved ones we’ve lost.

    • Evil certainly has touched our family, more closely that I would have ever have imagined before. Cindy has been on my mind constantly over the past 48 hours. Someday I’ll write something just for her. Love you.

  5. Stacie,

    All that you wrote makes so much sense and I share your thinking. In spite of how horrific this act was, however, my heart does not allow me to call the shooter the Devil. This was Fox’s characterization of this young man last night.

    On another topic, I have lost my phone, which is completely annoying. Can Taylor do his lesson tomorrow at 3:45? This will work best again this week!

    Thanks. Leslie

    Sent from my iPad

    • Taylor can absolutely do his lesson at 3:45 tomorrow, thanks Leslie.

      As for the depiction of the shooter, I can see where you would connect the dots between the words evil and devil. I’m not referring to a religious depiction of the word evil, however, more along the lines of the Ayn Rand quote I copied in the post. It’s a powerful word for all of the wrong reasons, and I can’t remember the last time I uttered it. It scares me, as do the repercussions of anything associated with it.

      You have a wonderful, huge heart, and I’m thankful our family is exposed to it.

  6. The best thing we can do to honor those precious lives is to shine our light on the world. Shine with hope and love, as you so beautifully said. Shine until there is no more room for that ugly four-letter word.

  7. I keep turning the news channels because I’m almost in denial and don’t want to keep feeling the constant pain and sadness over yet another senseless tragedy. And these families that have to bury their children…..I feel in one word, numb.

    My hope is that people will pray for and worry about the ones who are left behind because I believe the beautiful innocent lives lost have all gone straight to Heaven. This is the one thing that gives me peace.

    Thank you for sharing their names Stace.

    Love u,

    Jess

    • Thank you for sharing your kind, comforting thoughts, Jess. It’s almost impossible to consider the horror of what happened without, at the same time, hoping that all of the victims are in a better place. xoxo

  8. You have captured so may feelings about an unbelievable/horrific situation. If people can only heal from this in some kind of way, that is my wish! Thank you for helping all of us to work through our feelings and to turn the control of those feelings over to someone much bigger than I.
    Love,
    Mom

    • Thank you, Mom. I know this horrific event, like for millions of others across the world, has been gut-wrenching to witness. No more so, though, than the family and friends of the deceased. xoxo

  9. Stacie, Your mom forwarded this to me. Jim and I wanted you to know how touched we were by this article. You are a gifted writer and we feel blessed to be able to read your beautiful prose. Katy Baughman

    • Dear Katy,

      You are too kind. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my work. I just wish the subject matter was different, anything really.

      On another note, please ask Jim to come out of retirement and move to Colorado. I need to get my kids to church.

      I hope your family is well and please tell Dr. B hello for me,

      Stacie

  10. Evil is not a part of nature. We know it only from the mind of man – the mind gone bad. But behind this mind gone bad, is love – yes, even in the sick mind of the shooter. Because man is from nature, and the nature of life on earth, even in the sick (who have temporarily disconnected from nature), is love. So, how do we stop the minds of men from disconnecting from the natural order? Love, there must be more love. Somewhere along the line, these shooters become ill because they can’t see love, can’t feel it, and the world is against them, universally – they believe.

  11. You’re right, Stacie: the opposite of evil is hope, and you’re part of that hope. This post is a reflection of both the love and revulsion you feel — the very same emotions almost everyone else is feeling. Thank you for describing it so perfectly, and for listing those names.

  12. I’ve been trying to distance myself from the tragedy, which has been difficult because Hubs is obsessed by anything that potentially threatens the safety of his family, but today I looked at their pictures. Every single one of those children looks like my own child to me. Every single one of those beautiful faces. Every. Single. One.
    Your third paragraph best captures it for me. I couldn’t have put it into words as eloquently as you did, but it is exactly right. I had to sob my way through it because it cuts so close to the bone.

  13. Brilliant post. I can’t bring myself to read the list of names, I’m just not ready. The thought of children being terrorized and murdered…it’s more than my heart can handle.

    I believe hope is the answer. I hope there’s change. I really, really do.

  14. Your description of losing a child is heart-rending. And I agree, no parent should ever outlive their child. It’s unnatural. Tragedies like this are impossible to make sense of. What we must do is grieve with all our hearts and comfort the bereaved the best we can.
    Touching post.

  15. Stacie, everything I type feels so banal and empty. I know enough of grief to realize that the denial/numbness is but a phase.
    Thank you for opening that passionate heart of yours for the rest of us to hang on to. -Nikki

  16. I know most folks are not comfortable talking about such things and I try to keep it to myself. But if I start to laugh at something it freezes in my throat .Normally quick to curse and holler I look at the salt that just spilled on my dinner cause the lid came off and ….nothing.

    Thanks for the moving article .If you saw me you would cross the street but here I sit teary eyed.
    The flag is at half mast for 26 people.Most of them children.

  17. Thank you Staci, you have done beautifully. As difficult as it is to read the names of the victims we owe them. We owe them remembrance. We owe them acknowledgement. I am heartbroken by this event, my husband made me turn off the television because it was a trigger and all I could do is cry. I think we as a nation should be covering ourselves in ashes.

    • Even with the slight passage of time nothing has changed. I’m waiting for that warm, fuzzy story to emerge…the baby who gets pulled from the rubble. But all of the heros are dead.

      Thanks for the read and heartfelt comment, Valentine.

      I hope you’re well.

  18. Stacie: I have been a hunter for more than thirty five years. I have been a NRA member for most of those years. However, for the life of me I cannot think of one good reason why people need assault rifles. These types of firearms are not used for hunting. It’s time our politicians re-institute the ban on assault rifles and put some teeth into the legislation. Australia is a great example of what can happen when tougher gun laws become the law of the land.

    • I agree completely. Although I don’t own a gun, I do believe that per our Constitution, everyone in America has the right to, assuming they are sane (although since Adam Lanza used his mother’s guns, sanity can easily be skirted). I’d like to see the same legislation you speak of.

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment, Tom. I hope all is well with you.

      • Aw, thanks! I think I’ve been “following” you for awhile, but you’ve never shown up in my reader. You were listed in yet another blog-roll, so I sought you out last night and loved what I read.

      • I’ve had the hardest time with WordPress being spotty like that. I truly appreciate the time you’ve taken to read my posts and your kind comments. I’m coming over to check out your site. Thanks again!

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